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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, March 22, 2023


March 31, 2004 – Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt says he would not be able to initiate an investigation of environmental health official Ethlyn Joseph for at least two months, should it fall to his office to do the investigating.
Meantime, Joseph, the director of the Health Department's Environmental Health Division, has gotten a vote of confidence from a restaurateur who was a target of her inspections.
Allegations of extortion have been leveled at Joseph in a media outlet, suggesting she may have used her position to accept bribes. As a result of the allegations, Health Commissioner Darlene Carty has reassigned Joseph within the department until an investigation of the charges is completed.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said in a release that he approved Carty's recommendation that Joseph be reassign pending the investigation. Carty told Turnbull she had referred the matter to the Office of Inspector General.
"Media reports have painted a picture of a corrupt division and department," Carty wrote to the governor. "This perception does not bode well for the public's confidence in the job the department is tasked to perform. Having Mrs. Joseph remain at the helm under these circumstances does not help that perception."
Joseph will serve as "director of special projects" within the Health Department until the matter is resolved, Carty said. Clarice Commissiong, acting deputy commissioner, has been named interim director of Environmental Health.
In a March 23 article, the V.I. Daily News reported that Sinclair Crabb, owner of Sinclair's Café, said Joseph had closed his restaurant because he "refused to pay off Joseph a third time." The newspaper reported that Crabb said he paid Joseph because "she demanded money 'under the table' to overlook violations — which Crabb insists never existed."
The newspaper also stated: "Crabb's problems with Joseph began after he fired her godson, who had been a cook at the restaurant."
However, David Joseph, a professional chef who said he worked with Sinclair for more then 15 years, says he doesn't believe Ethlyn Joseph was taking money from the restaurateur.
David Joseph, who said he is unrelated to Ethlyn Joseph, also says she has been a good environmental health inspector, and that "everything she wrote [in her citation of Sinclair's Café] was true."
According to David Joseph, he would have known if Ethlyn Joseph was extorting money, because of his position as Crabb's partner and vice president of Sinclair's Café. What he did say was that right before every time Ethlyn showed up for an inspection, someone from her office would call Crabb to warn him she was on her way.
The restaurant is located on Upper Norre Gade, formerly known as Pave Street, where the Pave Street Café and, before that, Fanfare Flowers, had been located.
David Joseph said he has known Ethlyn Joseph for at least five years and that he thinks people on her staff have been trying to undermine her efforts. "She is a very good health inspector," he said. "The minute people try to do a good job, they are attacked."
David Joseph admitted that "I was part of it," referring to the restaurant's non-compliance with environmental health regulations. He said it has long been his dream to own his own restaurant, something that he and Crabb had planned for years as they worked together. "He taught me how to cook," Joseph said. However, the two men parted ways because of financial disagreements, he said.
The conditions at Sinclair's Café that David Joseph described were similar to those later cited by the Health Department. They included sewers blocked with grease and backed up, causing a stench; freezers and refrigerators that were kept out of doors and not always at the appropriate temperature to ensure food safety; and the cleaning of meat out of doors.
In a release citing all of the above violations, Carty said Sinclair's Café had been fined repeatedly over the last three years "from the inception of the business." "In instances where corrective action was not complied with, enforcement action was escalated, up to and including forced closure by the commissioner," the release stated. "In its most recent inspection, the restaurant received a rating of 98 percent. This high score was directly attributable to the department's persistent regulatory oversight."
Carty's release also noted that many of the more than 6,000 food establishments in the territory have been cited for the same or similar types of violations.
Assertions of "corruptive practices" in the case of Sinclair's Café were brought her attention, Carty said, but "substantiated corroborative evidence that was promised was never produced."
Although Carty has referred the matter to his office, van Beverhoudt expressed concerns. "I received the formal request for the investigation this morning, but I'm not 100 percent certain we are doing it," he said on Tuesday. "I believe it was referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office."
Van Beverhoudt said he was awaiting word from that federal office. "I don't want to do something they are doing," he said. "I have had no official notification from them; I read something in the paper."
The Daily News published accusations by two local restaurateurs and an undisclosed number of unidentified Health Department employees against Joseph in several stories in its March 23 and 24 issues. The March 24 story said Health Department employees who had "disclosed their allegations to the Daily News also made them to federal investigators, putting them under the protection of the federal and territorial 'whistle blower' laws that prohibit an employer from punishing workers who disclose suspected misdeeds."
Azekah Jennings, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, issued the federal agency's standard disclaimer on Tuesday: "I cannot confirm or deny if we are conducting an investigation."
Van Beverhoudt said that if investigating the matter does fall to his office, he cannot initiate the investigation at this time because of financial constraints. "It would be at least another two months before I could consider it," he said. "They will just have to stand in line."
The Office of Inspector General is the oversight agency for all three branches of the V.I. government and its instrumentalities. Its tasks include conducting audits, monitoring departmental operations and investigating suspected fraud, waste and other abuses. The agency has chronically been underfunded and, as a result, understaffed.
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone has drafted legislation with the support of Sen. Emmett Hansen II mandating an annual budget for the Inspector General's Office of 1 percent of the overall annual V.I. budget — "which right now would be about $5.8," Malone said. The bill has yet to get a hearing.
Government House has refuted another allegation published by the Daily News. The newspaper on March 24 reported that Ethlyn Joseph "is Turnbull's first cousin, grew up in the same household as Turnbull, and was appointed to the position after Turnbull was elected governor in 1999."
James O 'Bryan Jr., government house spokesman, said in a release sent to the Daily News that "Mrs. Joseph is not the offspring of any of the brothers and sisters of the parents of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull; therefore, she is not the governor's first cousin. Mrs. Joseph did not grow up in the same household as Governor Turnbull."
In a memorandum to J. Lowe Davis, Daily News executive editor, seeking a correction, O'Bryan said that "Mrs. Joseph can, at best, be characterized as a distant relative to the governor." The newspaper published O'Bryan'
s memo on Monday.
Ethlyn Joseph issued a "response to the Daily News allegations of corruption" on March 23. In the half-page statement faxed to the media, she termed the allegations "totally false" and said that "in due course" they would be addressed "in an appropriate form."
She stated that her dedication to public health clearly has "offended some both in government and outside." In her six years as director of Environmental Health, she said, "my service to the community as far as I can tell and know has been above reproach."

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